The title of “Surprising Gun Violence” may seem a little naïve when you live in the United States. In this country, unfortunately, it is a daily occurrence with almost nothing being done to stop it. However, it is not something you would expect in Sweden.
A headline of “Guns Galore”, sub-titled “Gothenburg – Gun crime is on the rise” seems totally out of place in our perception of Swedish culture and society. Yes, there have been isolated incidents, notably of a very conservative madman on a small island several years ago, but the general impression is of a law-abiding society.
What happened is a possible portent of the future in many European countries. Specifically, the failure to integrate large numbers of refugees from North African and the Middle Eastern conflicts.
In late May, a throng of a hundred or so young men, most of them from African or Middle East origins, started fighting in a suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. Members of rival gangs seemed to have started the scrap over the theft of a moped. Within a week, three people had been shot dead in various acts of revenge over the fight.
The violence has since spread to Stockholm, where two small children were lucky to survive when they were caught in the crossfire of a rival gang shootout.
Even more surprising, is that Sweden now tops the list of homicides per capita in the whole of Europe – two-and-a-half times the European average. Most of the killings involve men between 20 and 29, and most of the victims are migrants/refugees. Surprising gun violence indeed.
Such violence has been fueled by illegal drugs, and ill-feelings between jobless, marginalized young men and the police. The influx of migrants has created urban ghettos, where the occupants scrape by on welfare payments, and the black market. Shooting has become the common way of settling differences. In Hjallbo, the suburb of Gothenburg where the fight took place, over 70% of the residents were born abroad.
In the 1980’s, in Gothenburg, police solved 80% of all murders. Today, the figure is a mere 20%.
If this situation was in the United States, no-one would be surprised, and the statistics would be miniscule by comparison. However, this is happening in a country that many think is a model of social responsibility and government enlightenment. Why, then, is Sweden succumbing to the same disease as many other countries?
The answers may be elusive. It’s easy to document the problem, just as it’s easy to assign blame to the perpetrators. Trying to analyze why it is happening, and what to do about it, is much more difficult. However, it is a problem that every country that has agreed to accept large numbers of migrants is facing, or will face, in the near future. Germany, in particular, has welcomed massive numbers of migrants in the last few years.
I think one answer to the “why” question is contained in the description of the migrant movement, and that is the word “massive”. I would suggest that no country is really prepared to suddenly integrate massive numbers of strangers of any sort. Accepting them, in a humanitarian gesture, yes but integrating them into your existing society may well be an unachievable dream. However, it is understandable, and commendable, to try.
This next paragraph may sound like a “Segway” but I have a suspicion that much of the black/white problem in the United States was caused by the sudden, and completely laudable, abolition of slavery. Millions of “strangers” were added to the roles of American society. The system couldn’t take it, ghettos arose and prospered, and the divisions we know today started. In a funny way, this U.S. example is a lesson for what Europe is currently undergoing with massive migrant numbers.
I live in hope that we might, in this instance, learn from U.S. history, but evidence would indicate that such hope is a futile pipe-dream, unfortunately.